Iowa State University

Inside Iowa State
August 13, 1999

How hot was it?

by Linda Charles
Physical plant staff toiled to keep work and classes bearable during a steamy July. One of the ways staff battled the heat was by burning more coal and producing more steam to keep the chillers going to cool campus buildings.

And while temperatures may have seemed a bit high in your building, those working in the heating plant faced temperatures of about 110 degrees on the main floor, and 125 to 130 degrees on the upper floors. Night brought the temperature down to only about 90 degrees, said Jeff Witt, assistant director of utilities.

All facilities staff had air conditioned areas where they could take breaks to get out of the heat, and additional breaks were encouraged, Witt said. Water and Gatorade also were provided in an effort to keep staff from succumbing to the heat.

There are five shifts of five operators who keep the main heating plant operating around the clock, Witt said. There also are 10 electrical and mechanical maintenance staff who maintain the equipment to ensure it is ready to operate during heavy load periods. In addition, small plants are operated at the Applied Sciences center and the Veterinary Medicine complex.

"The staff's job is to run the equipment as required to satisfy the university's demands," Witt said. "They need to anticipate the loads and have the proper equipment running."

Overall, things went well during the July blast, although equipment problems at Vet Med during the first part of the heat wave required some overtime hours to fix, Witt said.

As soon as one heat wave breaks, the staff begins preparing for the next, Witt said.

"Once the weather breaks, the plant staff addresses any problems that arose during high load periods"" he said. "Weve completed this work already and are ready for the next spell of hot weather."

Jeff Witt, assistant director of utilities, said it was so hot that:
  • Heating plant employees had to operate an additional boiler, generator and chiller to keep up with the universitys demands.
  • 7 percent more coal was burned at the plant this July than last July.
  • 11 percent more pounds of steam were produced this July than last.
  • The university used almost 3 percent more kilowatt hours of electricity this year than last.
  • Nearly 21 percent more chilled water was needed this year than last.
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    Revised 08/13/99